Celtic, Motherwell to learn UCL fate

Celtic, Motherwell to learn UCL fate

Published Jul. 19, 2012 1:00 a.m. ET

Celtic will learn their potential opponents for the third qualifying round of the Champions League on Friday, with Motherwell also in the draw.

The Clydesdale Bank Premier League champions have been seeded for the draw and Neil Lennon's men know they will face one of 10 teams - with the second-round fxtures still to be concluded.

With Motherwell being unseeded they will face a stern test from one of Dynamo Kiev, Fenerbache, FC Copenhagen or Panathinaikos.

Celtic's draw looks decidedly easier in the domestic champions section.


They could face Ulisses, FC Sheriff, Molde, Ventspils, HJK Helsinki, KR, AEL Limassol, Linfield, Neftci PFK or FC Zestafoni.

With Celtic's Old Firm rivals Rangers being entered into the Irn-Bru Third Division, the newco club had their SPL application rejected, many feel a run in the Champions League is required to give the Celtic Park faithful big fixtures this season.

Former Hoops skipper Tom Boyd is one of the people who believes the group stages are a minimum requirement for Celtic.

"We have got qualifiers coming up in a few weeks time and we have to make sure we qualify for that and get the crowd back again because some of the best nights we have had here at Celtic Park have been on Champions League nights - even better than some of the Old Firm games," he said.

Celtic have a mixed record in European qualification but Boyd fancies them to progress.

He said: "They have a good chance. I think what has helped them is being seeded. "With the quality of the squad, if they play to the potential they had last season, they would be good enough to qualify."

With the first leg of the qualifiers coming ahead of the new season Boyd also feels it can be a disadvantage to face a team from a league whose season is well under way.

"The big problem obviously is that it happens before the start of the season and if you look back over the years it has been a problem for most Scottish teams so we hope we can get a team that are in the same position and not have that little head-start and fitness and game awareness," he said.

Celtic face Ajax in a pre-season friendly on Saturday, with matches against Inter Milan and Real Madrid also lined up.

Assistant manager Johan Mjallby believes their fixture against the Dutch giants will be good preparation for whoever their Champions League opposition prove to be.

"We're all looking forward to Ajax right now because that's going to be a stern test for us," he told Celtic's official website.

"They are a quality side and it is games like this one against Ajax that we need to play to see where we are really before we venture into European football and try to qualify for the Champions League."

Motherwell reached this stage due to the liquidation of the oldco Rangers and will be huge underdogs no matter which opponent they are drawn against on Thursday.